Myŏng-lim Tapbu

Myŏng-lim Tapbu

Myong-lim Tapbu was a man of Koguryŏ. During the reign of King Sindae (165-179 CE) he became prime minister (kuksang). At this time, Keng Lin, the Han commander (tai-shou) of the Hsüan-t’u Commandery, gathered a great army wishing to attack Koguryŏ. The king asked all his ministers whether the best strategy would be attack or defense. They opined, “The Han army believes itself formidable while scoffing at us.

If we fail to go out and fight they will consider us cowardly and continually harass us. But our country is one of precipitous mountains and narrow passes. One man holding a pass can stop an army of ten thousand. Though the Han army may be formidable, doesn’t this make us more so? Therefore, we should mobilize our troops for the defense”. Tapbu then spoke, “This is not the case. The state of Han is vast and its population great.

Its powerful army now approaches from afar to give battle. We cannot protect ourselves from such a lance’s point. When your forces are strong attack is called for, when weak defense is called, that art of strategy tells us this. Now the Han forces have enough provisions for a 1000 li but this will not last them long. If we dig a deep moat and build high walls."

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